United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Steven Wayne Adams, a state prisoner incarcerated at the
Cooper Street Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan,
seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In
his pro se petition, Adams challenges the sentence
of 80 to 120 months imposed on him by the 20th Circuit Court
for Ottawa County, Michigan for operating while intoxicated
(OWI) as a third-time offender in violation of Mich. Comp.
Laws § 257.625. He urges that his sentence violates the
principle of proportionality, that the trial court failed to
justify its upward departure from the sentencing guidelines
range, and that he is entitled to be resentenced before a
different state court judge. It is plain from the face of the
petition that habeas relief is not warranted, and the Court
will therefore dismiss the petition. See Rule 4 of
the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, 28 U.S.C. foll. §
2254 (requiring the Court to promptly review habeas corpus
petitions and dismiss any that on their face will plainly
will not entitle the petitioner to relief).
pled guilty to OWI, third-time offense, in Ottawa County
Circuit Court and on January 29, 2018 the state trial judge
sentenced him as a third-habitual offender to 80 to 120
months of imprisonment (approximately six-and-a-half years to
ten years). ECF No. 1 PageID.1 (Habeas Pet.). Petitioner
filed an application for leave to appeal his sentence to the
Michigan Court of Appeals, raising the same claims he now
asserts in his habeas petition. See ECF No. 1
PageID.2. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to
appeal stating only, “The Court orders that the delayed
application for leave to appeal is DENIED for lack of merit
in the grounds presented.” People v. Adams,
No. 344810 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2018). The Michigan
Supreme Court denied Petitioner leave to appeal on the basis
that it was “not persuaded that the question presented
should be reviewed by this Court.” People v.
Adams, 922 N.W.2d 114 (Mich. 2019).
then filed the instant habeas petition asserting that: (1)
his sentence, which he considers a 37-month upward departure
from the sentencing guidelines, violates the principle of
proportionality; (2) the trial court failed to adequately
justify its upward departure; and (3) he is entitled to
resentencing by a different judge because of comments made by
the sentencing judge about Petitioner's previous
convictions for involuntary manslaughter.
U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”),
Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, “sets several
limits on the power of a federal court to grant an
application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a state
prisoner.” Moore v. Mitchell, 708 F.3d 760,
781 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Cullen v. Pinholster,
563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011)). A federal court “shall
not” grant a habeas petition filed by “a person
in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court . . .
with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits
in State court proceedings, ” unless at least one of
two exceptions applies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
first exception occurs if the state court judgment
“resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court.”
Id. A decision of a state court is “contrary
to” clearly established federal law if the state court
arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the
Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court
decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a
set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). An “unreasonable
application” occurs when “a state court decision
unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the
facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 408.
The second exception under which a federal court may grant a
state prisoner habeas relief applies if the state court
judgment “resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the State court proceeding.”
Id. AEDPA therefore “imposes a highly
deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, and
demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of
the doubt.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not completely bar federal
courts from re-litigating claims that have previously been
rejected in the state courts, it preserves the authority for
a federal court to grant habeas relief only “in cases
where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could
disagree that the state court's decision conflicts
with” the Supreme Court's precedents.
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).
Indeed, § 2254(d) “reflects the view that habeas
corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state
criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error
correction through appeal.” Id. at 102-03
(internal quotations and citation omitted).
claims for habeas relief arise from his sentence and
therefore implicate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on
“cruel and unusual punishments.” U.S. Const.,
amend. VIII. The Eighth Amendment, however, “does not
require strict proportionality between crime and sentence.
Rather, it forbids only extreme sentences that are
‘grossly disproportionate' to the crime.”
Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 1001 (1991)
(quoting Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 288 (1983)).
Courts reviewing Eighth Amendment proportionality must remain
highly deferential to the legislatures in determining the
appropriate punishments for crimes. United States v.
Layne, 324 F.3d 464, 473-74 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing
Harmelin, 501 U.S. at 999). “In implementing
this ‘narrow proportionality principle,' the Sixth
Circuit has recognized that ‘only an extreme disparity
between crime and sentence offends the Eighth
Amendment.'” Cowherd v. Million, 260
Fed.Appx. 781, 785 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States
v. Marks, 209 F.3d 577, 583 (6th Cir. 2000)). As long as
the sentence remains within the statutory limits, trial
courts have historically been given wide discretion in
determining “the type and extent of punishment for
convicted defendants.” Williams v. New York,
337 U.S. 241, 245 (1949).
sentence falls within the statutory maximum for his offense.
See Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.625(9)(c)(i)
(providing that persons convicted of felony OWI with two or
more prior convictions shall be sentenced to between one and
five years in prison); Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.11(a)(1)
(allowing judges to sentence a person previously convicted of
two or more felonies punishable by imprisonment for less than
a life term to imprisonment for a maximum term “not
more than twice the longest term prescribed by law for a
first conviction of that offense, ” which in this case
would be ten years). Because Petitioner's sentence of
between six-and-a-half years and ten years is within the
ten-year statutory maximum accorded by Michigan law, this
Court will defer to the decision of the state court and deny
habeas relief on this claim. See Austin v. Jackson,
213 F.3d 298, 302 (6th Cir. 2000) (“A sentence within
the statutory maximum . . . generally does not constitute
cruel and unusual punishment.”) (internal quotation
also argues that the sentencing judge failed to justify the
extent of the departure from the guidelines range. The
Michigan Court of Appeals rejected this claim on the merits.
See Adams, No. 344810. As explained by the Supreme
Court, “[t]he habeas statute unambiguously provides
that a federal court may issue the writ to a state prisoner
‘only on the ground that he is in custody in violation
of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
States.'” Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1,
5 (2010), quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The requirement
that a sentencing court articulate a “substantial and
compelling reason” for departure from the sentencing
guidelines is found in Michigan, not federal, law.
See Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.34(3). Accordingly,
whether a state court judge articulates substantial and
compelling reasons for departing from the sentencing
guidelines is a matter of state law and cannot be the basis
for a due process violation. See Howard v. White, 76
Fed.Appx. 52, 53 (6th Cir. 2003) (“A state court's
alleged misinterpretation of state sentencing guidelines and
crediting statutes is a matter of state concern
only.”); Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S. 216, 222
(2011) (“[A] mere error of state law is not a denial of
due process.”) (internal quotations omitted).
Petitioner's claim that he should be resentenced by a
different state court trial judge is rendered moot by denial